Starting from scratch

We had some landscaping done in our backyard recently that resulted in brand new gardening opportunities.

A completely blank canvas! Oh, the possibilities. For helping…bees! (And other pollinators too, of course.)

I did a little happy dance then headed straight to the nearest gardening centre.

Did I have a clue as to what to get? Um, nope! Well, whatever was on sale and looked bee-worthy.

The garden centre actually had little pre-made baskets from The Canadian Wildlife Federation with flowers that attract specific pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds… I bought one for bees (and I think I’ll go back to get the others).

With a big bag of dirt and a cart chocked full of baby plants, I hurried home to tuck them into their new home before the sun set.

Here are some of my new babies. Like a new mom, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll do my best and hope that they thrive! (My grandmother was a stellar gardener and I’m hoping to channel some of her super-powers.)

Basil! One of my favourite herbs. I admit it’s more for me than the bees.

Russian sage. Never heard of it before…

Never heard of cat mint before, either. But all those little purple blooms are certainly bee-friendly.

More purple bee flowers! Although this one came from the 99 cent shelf and I have no idea what they are…

I don’t know what these flowers are, either, but I always thought they look pretty.

Four bits of magic

Cottages always hold such potential for little bits of magic. We went up to our cottage last weekend, kept our eyes open, and we were not disappointed.

1. If we leave peanuts out for the chipmunks, will they find them? The answer: yes! Well, at least something took them. We didn’t hang around to see who or what, since the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Lexi on her way to see if the peanuts had been taken.

2. Sitting in the sun, minding my own business, when this big blue friend stops for a visit. We hung out for quite a while. I wonder what it was about my knee that was so attractive? Regardless, it was a treat to marvel at this big beauty up close.

A big, friendly dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever had one land on me before.

3. What I think is a damselfly landed on my foot after I had gone for a swim. I transferred it to my hand and it stayed to visit for a while. It even let me put it on my son’s hand, too, before it decided to fly away.

I think this is some kind of damselfly… Whatever it is, it liked our hands!
Our (blurry) damselfly friend on my son’s finger.

4. “Mommy, can you find me some sea shells?” I searched and searched and found these snail shells in the water next to shore. I think my daughter kept them clutched in her fist for the rest of our trip.

Three “sea shells.” The long nails on my daughter’s hand are actually fake Canada Day-themed nails.

I wonder what bits of magic await us for the next time?

Who knew I could throw an axe?

A friend of mine works as an event planner and she was asked by her supervisor to create a “bucket list”: a list of things you hope to experience before you, um, kick the bucket. The list has to be 100 items long. Since she was given this challenge my friend has also been trying to check off as many items on her list as possible (being an event planner, this helps). One item on her list is axe throwing. Last night we aimed to check it off.

The venue we went to was the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL). My husband and I were invited along with three other couples. I have to admit I was quite hestitant. Most of the time I feel like I have the upper body strength of a cooked noodle. Throwing an axe? I’ll either lodge it into my foot or kill/maim somebody! I signed the waiver as I prayed to a higher power.

Thank goodness we had an instructor with us the whole time and we were given a good warm-up period. And most importantly, the axe was small.

My first throws were hilarious. My axe bounced off the wall, missed the target completely, you name it. (But it did not impale anyone. YAY!) But then a little magic happened as my brain and eyes and arms and everything synchronized…and I hit the target! Then came the million dollar question: how do I do that again?! With a few more practice throws I actually started to show some consistency. And I actually…liked it.

After the warm-up period there was a round-robin tournament: pairs of players competed to see who could get the most points after 15 throws. A few times I was paired up with one of the guys, who were all were much bigger than me and all rather sporty.

But guess what? I came in third place!

Then came the second tournament where players were eliminated until the winner remained. Amazingly I eliminated one player, then another player…and before I knew it, I was battling for first place! Against my husband!

My husband won. He’s good at practically everything. But I came in second place! Who would have guessed? (Thank you, axe-throwing gods!)

 I took a brochure with information about their league. Who knows? I might just sign up.

And I might take a stab at creating my own bucket list.

Exhaustion (yawn…)

It is 7:17 pm and I feel like I could crawl into bed.

My husband took the kids and the puppy to a park to burn off some of their interminable energy. I know my husband is likely just as tired as I am so I am eternally grateful.

There is the dull ache of fatigue at the back of my head and strain around my eyes. It hurts to think. Yet I feel restless.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done. Two kids under seven and a puppy. What was I thinking? Am I insane? These days I go to work to relax.

To summarize some of my day:

Let puppy out for a pee / Supervise three-year-old as she goes for a pee / Make lunches / Make breakfast / Eat breakfast / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Let puppy out for a pee / Clean up kitchen / Shower / Let puppy out for a pee / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up dog poop on floor (Dammit! When did that happen?!) / Brush children’s teeth / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up more dog poop on floor (Seriously?!?!) / Engage in high-level negotiations for three-year-old to get dressed / Coax puppy into crate / Haul backpacks, hats, children, into car…

And that was before 8:15 am.

I know many people will say these are “special times.” Yeah, they are special because I feel I can hardly breathe. Sometimes I think the kids and the dog have so much energy because they suck it away from their parents…

ZZZzzzzZZZzzzz……

Puppies and Homemade Muffins

Yesterday my husband and I visited a litter of 14 puppies! They are six weeks old.


The mom is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the dad is a Boxer. And the puppies, as you can see, are out-of-this-world CUTE!

Fourteen puppies = adorable chaos. I reached my hand into their pen and there was frantic clamboring to sniff/nip/lick my fingers (and sleeve, and rings…). They were so friendly and excited! I managed to pluck one out and hold him for a while. My heart grew ten sizes. Then I saw the runt, sitting alone off to the side, trying not to get run over by her bumbling siblings. We managed to coax her over and we held her, too. 

Then we heard the wonderful/evil news: “Only two of the puppies are spoken for.”

Uh-oh.

We have been dog-less since our old poochie passed away a year and a half ago. We know we’ll get another dog one day.

We eventually left the puppies, miraculously without making any commitments. (Is there anything more persuasive than the pull of a puppy??)

We talked and talked on the way home: Should we? Shouldn’t we?

This morning I decided to bake some muffins: let my thoughts stir and mix around like the batter in the bowl. 

Puppies are a lot of work.

We have two young human puppies already.

But a puppy would bring so much JOY!

The kids would LOVE one.

But puppies are a lot of work…

The muffins are now done baking, but our decision has not.

Making friends with a new sketchbook

My brother and sister-in-law gave me a most awesome Christmas present: a sketchbook and artist pens!


It is awesome because I’d like to draw again. I haven’t drawn since high school. And I haven’t owned a sketchbook since then, either.

So tonight when I found myself with a few spare minutes…I stared at it.

The word “SKETCH” looks funny if you stare at it long enough.

Do I really deserve a sketchbook? I can’t draw!

Oh, shut up and open it!


There. It’s open. I even took out one of the pens. It has “F” on it. I don’t even know what that means! “Fine”? As in, the thickness of the tip is “fine”?

I certainly don’t feel “fine.” I feel “frightened.”

And glaring back is an empty page.

With writing, I know that often the biggest struggle is to begin. Sometimes it helps to just dive in and get a few words on the page, regardless of what they say.

Maybe the same goes for sketching?

Okay, so here’s my hand.


I feel like I should have a disclaimer or something written at the beginning of this book. 

I know! An oath. Here goes…


I, Dana Church, do solemnly swear, that I will be gentle with myself and be patient with myself and kind to myself, as I embark on this somewhat intimidating journey that is a SKETCHBOOK. I solemnly swear I will tell my inner critic to SHUT UP and I will sketch with abandon, knowing that anything I put on the page does NOT need to be perfect, that anything I put on the page is worthy and good enough in its own right, and recognize that artists are not artists unless they take a LEAP and MAKE ART. Which can be anything from the heart.

I did it! I started my sketchbook. 

And so the journey begins…

My blue blanket

Some of my earliest memories are of a blue blanket. It was soft enough, but it had a slight woolly scratchiness to it. The colour reminded me of skies.

I remember taking that blanket with me everywhere. It was especially essential at nap time. I couldn’t fall asleep properly unless I wrapped my index finger in one of the corners of the blanket, then rubbed my wrapped finger against the side of my nose while I sucked my thumb.

My blanket didn’t have a name. And for someone who liked pink so much (as seen by the pink from head-to-toe in the photo), I wonder why the blue blanket? 

The blanket played many roles. At one point I tried to make a hammock out of it for my dolls by stretching it between the knobs on a coffee table. There was a r-r-r-rip! I was mortified at the thought of almost destroying my blanket friend.

Eventually Blue Blanket suffered from holes and spots so worn, it was like cheesecloth. Blue Rag was more like it. Tattered, pilly, and well-loved. 

I’m unsure of Blue Blanket’s fate. Probably thrown out when I was “too old” for a blankie.

These memories were unearthed from the photo; when I think of it, I have yet to run across a blanket similar in colour and texture.

A one-of-a-kind, I guess! 

Stoves and Christmas Joy

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This is a picture of me, on the left, when I was three years old. On the right is my brother, who would be a little over one.

I look pretty darned happy. We got a homemade, wooden stove for Christmas that year. I can’t remember if I had asked Santa for one or if it came as a complete surprise. In any event, looks as though it didn’t matter!

I do remember that stove, though. The knobs could turn ’round and ’round, and there was a clock in the centre where you could move the hands to change the time. The oven door opened up to what to me was an enormous cooking space.

I remember playing with it a lot.

I remember it smelled of fresh paint and the surface had a slight striped texture from the bristles of a paint brush. Someone made this stove by hand. At some level, even at three years old, I understood this and it made the gift all the more special and exciting. It was a one-of-a-kind. My stove. (Well, my brother’s too, I guess, if I was in the mood to share.)

I wonder what my own kids will remember of their own Christmases past?

The only hand-made Christmas gift my kids have received so far are scarves I knitted. My son saw me knitting a scarf one day and asked if I could knit him one, too. So there is one under the tree for him. And there’s one for my daughter…if I can finish it tonight!

A scarf is not as exciting as a toy stove, I can admit. Maybe they’ll remember visiting the fire station to drop off toys–which has become a yearly tradition–and getting to sit in the fire trucks if the firemen weren’t busy. I’d bank on my kids remembering at least something about that.

In any event, may your holiday season be filled with warm memories!

Now I’d better get knitting…

 

The Zen of shovelling snow

We have a monstrous driveway. It is long and steep. So when it snows, I feel a few seconds of wonder at the beautiful whiteness, then a seeping plunge of dread at the prospect of shoveling the driveway.

It’s exercise, I tell myself. And fresh air

Oh yeah? Well, walking along a tropical sandy beach is also exercise and fresh air…

I bundle myself up in several layers then open the garage door. Shovel in hand, I stare at the expanse of the work ahead of me. 

Then I take a breath. 

And I realize how calm and quiet everything is. The only sound is the twittering of birds in the trees. I look up and there are some plump little chickadees, the brilliant red of a cardinal. “Hello!” I call up to them. The neighbours probably think I’m crazy. 

The birds chirp away. Maybe they’re laughing at me. But regardless, it sounds nice.

I begin. The snow is deep and heavy. This will take a while. My shovel acts as a mini snow plow, back and forth, back and forth across the driveway. Shaving off a bit at a time. Instead of looking at what lies ahead, I look behind to see what I’ve done. And the bare, snow-free space gets bigger and bigger, slowly, slowly.

The neighbours have not started up their snowblowers yet so the world is quiet and calm. There is always such a big, atmospheric sigh after a blizzard.

The kids are inside finishing breakfast. I have quiet right now. The shoveling takes minimal cognitive effort so I devote my mind to other things: Christmas shopping strategy, work-related tasks, and blog posts. But then I shush my mind and listen to the birds again. And I let the quiet infuse the inside of me, too. It is energizing, uplifting.

Although a tropical, sandy beach would be nice, I’ve got peace and calm right here, right now.

Cool light bulbs and fox poop

The conference is over and I’m waiting at the airport for my flight home. 

I attended the talks on Arctic foxes, but I had to run to a business meeting so I couldn’t ask the fox researchers my 398453984983745 questions. And I couldn’t find them anywhere afterward.

Boo!!

I will have to stalk them online. Kidding! (Or maybe not…)

But here are some things I learned about Arctic foxes:

  • Their poop is excellent fertilizer. You can easily spot Arctic fox dens in the tundra because the grass and other vegetation around them is so green, thick, and lush.
  • Arctic fox researchers sometimes store fox poop in the fridge do they can do DNA analysis on it at a later time.
  • In some areas, Arctic foxes compete with red foxes. 
  • Lemmings sometimes build nests on top of Arctic fox dens, which is weird, because Arctic foxes eat lemmings.

As I leave Winnipeg, here are some random thoughts–most of which are bathroom-related:

  • There are cool lightbulbs in the hotel rooms:

  • The person in the wheelchair looks like they REALLY have to go…

  • There are TV screens at the bathroom sinks…



And on that note, I gotta go!